Pakistan has about 1.2 million tube wells extracting 50 million acre feet of water every year for farm irrigation. NASA satellite maps show that Pakistan is among the places worst affected by rapid depletion of groundwater

Water Stress Satellite Map Source: NASA 

A recent World Bank report titled "Groundwater in Pakistan’s Indus Basin : Present and Future Prospects" lays out the need for better groundwater management in Pakistan. Here are three key highlights of this reports:

1. Improved groundwater management is crucial for a healthy, wealthy, and green Pakistan. Pakistan’s Indus Basin Irrigation System is the largest artificial groundwater recharge system in the world, but the current water management paradigm doesn’t reflect it. 

2. Over-abstraction, waterlogging and contamination threaten the crucial role of groundwater as a life-sustaining resource, which has cascading impacts on drought resilience, public health, and environmental sustainability. 

3. For groundwater to remain a safe and reliable source of drinking water and a lifeline for tail-end farmers, a balance must be achieved between efficiency of the surface water system and sustainability of groundwater resources.

The World Bank report points to the need for better management of groundwater resources. One of the keys to groundwater management is to have an elaborate network of small dams and water reservoirs in strategic locations to recharge underground aquifers. 

In recent years, Pakistan has begun to address its groundwater challenges, starting with the National Water Policy 2018 which identified priorities for groundwater management. 


Pakistan's Common Council of Interests (CCI) with the prime minister and the provincial chief ministers recently adopted a National Water Policy (NWP) in April 2018. It is designed to deal with “the looming shortage of water” which poses “a grave threat to (the country’s) food, energy and water security” and constitutes “an existential threat…”as well as “the commitment and intent” of the federal and provincial governments to make efforts “ to avert the water crisis”.

The NWP supports significant increases in the public sector investment for the water sector by the Federal Government from 3.7% of the development budget in 2017-18 to at least 10% in 2018-19 and 20% by 2030; the establishment of an apex body to approve legislation, policies and strategies for water resource development and management, supported by a multi- sectoral Steering Committee of officials at the working level; and the creation of a Groundwater Authority in Islamabad and provincial water authorities in each of the provinces.
As the NASA satellite map shows, the Punjab is the worst affected province where the groundwater depletion is the highest. Currently, 1.2 million private tube wells are working in the country, out of which 85% are in Punjab, 6.4% are in Sindh, 3.8% are in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and 4.8% are 3 in Baluchistan. 
National Water Policy 2018 was followed by the Punjab Water Policy in 2018 and the Punjab Water Act 2019. The policy emphasizes the need to curb groundwater over-extraction and contamination, and the Act establishes a regime of licenses for abstraction and wastewater disposal, managed by newly created regulatory bodies.
Punjab is also developing a provincial Groundwater Management Plan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a similar act was passed in 2020 while in Sindh, a draft Water Policy is underway to provide much needed direction for tackling waterlogging and salinity, and for conjunctive management of surface water and groundwater. The federal government is drafting a five-year National Groundwater Management Plan to provide a framework for coordinating groundwater stakeholders across Pakistan.
It appears that there is now clear recognition of the rapid loss of groundwater and its impact on agriculture irrigation and drinking water availability.  What is needed is serious follow-up and execution to produce results. 
Here's a video discussion on the subject:

https://youtu.be/nrfF3ppBzpo


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Comment by Akhtar Hussain on April 1, 2021 at 2:00pm

Dear Riaz Sahib,

In Holland where I am the Dutch charge water tax depending on how much water we use.  There is usually a flat tax depending on the number of people in a house. They use this money to clean or treat the dirty water and put in back in the ground.  I believe Pakistan can benefit from water treatment plants.  Also, Pakistan needs to use Solar energy for desalination of sea water.  This will help replace the depleted water table.  The Dutch are the best in the world in this field.  They know their underground water streams and do a great job of cleaning the dirty water.  

Thanks.

~Akhtar. 

Comment by Akhtar Hussain on April 1, 2021 at 2:05pm

Water conservation and drip irrigation are very useful.  Israel has turned deserts into Oases.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 25, 2021 at 11:07pm

Storing floodwater to ensure availability for whole year

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/855127-storing-floodwater-to-ensur...

Islamabad : The government is likely to approve an ambitious plan to store floodwater in existing fifteen natural lakes linked with wetlands that would be a nature-based solution of its own kind in the country.

A high official of the climate change ministry told this correspondent that an international organization has recently submitted a report that stated that Pakistan stored only 9 percent of floodwater and the remaining amount went down to the Arabian Sea.

He said “The report pointed out that the melting of glaciers starts in the northern region and monsoon arrives from the southern region. All this happens within 100 days so the flow of water can be turned towards the natural lakes that are part of the wetland sites.”

The official said the natural lakes linked with wetlands can provide enough storage capacity and considerably ensure availability of water throughout the year.

He said there are one million tubewells in Pakistan due to which the level of underground water has reduced in last few decades, adding “The plan will also help recharge aquifer and raise the level of underground water. The whole country will benefit from this plan that is likely to be approved soon by the federal cabinet.”

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has said the government is finding out nature-based solutions to the issue of water storage in the country. He said: “We have received a report from an international organization and it has shown us a path to store floodwater in existing natural lakes.”

These natural lakes are currently losing their water level so the plan would not only restore them to their original status but also help raise the level of groundwater in Pakistan, he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 21, 2022 at 4:23pm

A century of groundwater accumulation in Pakistan and northwest India

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-022-00926-1

The groundwater systems of northwest India and central Pakistan are among the most heavily exploited in the world. However, recent, and well-documented, groundwater depletion has not been historically contextualized. Here, using a long-term observation-well dataset, we present a regional analysis of post-monsoon groundwater levels from 1900 to 2010. We show that human activity in the early twentieth century increased groundwater availability before large-scale exploitation began in the late twentieth century. Net groundwater accumulation in the twentieth century, calculated in areas with sufficient data, was at least 420 km3 at ~3.6 cm yr–1. The development of the region’s vast irrigation canal network, which increased groundwater recharge, played a defining role in twentieth-century groundwater accumulation. Between 1970 and 2000, groundwater levels stabilized because of the contrasting effects of above-average rainfall and the onset of tubewell development for irrigation. Due to a combination of low rainfall and increased tubewell development, approximately 70 km3 of groundwater was lost at ~2.8 cm yr–1 in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Our results demonstrate how human and climatic drivers have combined to drive historical groundwater trends.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 5, 2022 at 12:14pm

Alishba Farrukh ⚯͛
@bubblesays
Pakistan has the world's fourth-highest rate of water use. Its water intensity rate — the amount of water, in cubic meters, used per unit of GDP — is the world's highest. This suggests that no country's economy is more water-intensive than Pakistan's. 1/n

https://twitter.com/bubblesays/status/1522195266933305345?s=20&...

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Alishba Farrukh ⚯͛
@bubblesays
·
6h
Replying to
@bubblesays
According to the IMF, Pakistan's per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic meters — perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters. Back in 2009, Pakistan's water availability was about 1,500 cubic meters.2/n

https://twitter.com/bubblesays/status/1522195653241319425?s=20&...


-------------


Alishba Farrukh ⚯͛
@bubblesays
Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water. What is even more disturbing is that groundwater supplies are being rapidly depleted. And worst of all is that the authorities have given no indication that they plan to do anything about any of this. 3/n

https://twitter.com/bubblesays/status/1522198066169798659?s=20&...

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Alishba Farrukh ⚯͛
@bubblesays
Pakistan may face a water shortage of 22-30% for six months starting from April 1 to September 30 during the Kharif season 2022.


https://twitter.com/bubblesays/status/1522198262043877378?s=20&...


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Alishba Farrukh ⚯͛
@bubblesays
In 2025 Pakistan may face an acute water crisis. To avoid this outcome Islamabad must work dedicatedly on National Water Security, and plantation dives to protect and conserve natural climate. The problem is not due to water availability but the mismanagement of water

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 31, 2022 at 9:03pm

The groundwater system underneath Pakistan’s flowing rivers in the Indus plains has at least 400 million acre feet (MAF) of pristine water. This storage is so large that it is equivalent to more than three years of the mean annual flow of the Indus (or 1,000 days of storage, after excluding polluted areas). This should now be seriously considered in the mainstream planning of Pakistan’s water resources.

https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/climate/pakistans-riverine-aquifers-may-save-its-future/


More than a thousand years ago, Alberuni wrote, “India has once been a sea which by degrees has been filled up by the alluvium of the streams.” This view was later endorsed in the late 19th century by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess, who named the sea ‘Tethys Ocean’. Mike Searle, in his 2013 book Colliding Continents explains that the Himalayas resulted from collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate 50 million years ago.

The Indus river and its Sutlej tributary both existed prior to this collision and drained into the Tethys Ocean. The collision gradually closed the sea and the remnants of the Tethys were filled by the material of eroding mountains deposited by the flowing rivers.

The Indus rivers have carried huge silt loads for millions of years, depositing them in the plains all the way to the delta. In their 1988 book, Irrigated Agriculture of Pakistan, Nazir Ahmad and Ghulam Rasul Chaudhry explained that high sediment loads in the Indus river system have created nearly 200,000 square kilometres of flatlands. These flatlands, to a considerable depth, are made up of unconsolidated and granular formations, capable of holding large volumes of water. “This reservoir of water is so vast, it ranks among the natural wonders of the world,” the authors write as they describe the groundwater resources of the Indus basin.

Aloys Arthur Michel, in his 1967 book, The Indus Rivers, describes these alluvial deposits as unconsolidated material, deeper than one mile, forming a large homogeneous groundwater reservoir with a capacity “at least ten times the annual runoff of the Indus rivers”.

This begs the question, that if we knew about this groundwater storage potential for decades, why has it never been discussed in the mainstream planning for sustainable exploitation to benefit the inhabitants of the Indus basin?

The reasons could have been many. The military dictatorship in place at the time of the signing of the Indus Water Treaty set a future discourse on the harnessing of surface waters only; a drift into debt economy and the lure of easy dollars in mega infrastructure projects for water; interest groups pushing large dams in the 1950s and 60s – an era when the whole world was going on a binge of building large dams; a lack of capacity at home to scrutinise proposals being advised by foreign ‘experts’ with vested interests; the obvious advantages of the visibility of big structures which can be loudly publicised in political arenas and so on. The result was that Pakistan chose the path of building mega-dams, river diversions and gravity-based flood irrigation systems. In doing so, we severely deteriorated our aquifers through waterlogging, salinity, unmanaged abstractions and indiscriminate pollution.

But that was the past. Is it possible to pursue a different path now?

Water quality

First, given the fact that this vast aquifer sits on top of a filled-up sea, its deeper formations are naturally saline. In the northern parts of the alluvial plains, the aquifer may hold sweet water up to a depth of a thousand feet or so, but as one moves south, the depth of sweet water gradually reduces.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 11, 2023 at 4:23pm

SenatorSherryRehman
@sherryrehman
Good news for Pakistan! Our Recharge Pakistan project, which will be implemented over the next 7 years, has been approved today for funding of 77.8 M USD. These include GCF resources of 66 M USD and co-financing of around USD 11.8 M. This adaptation project aims to initiate ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) interventions that will store flood water in wetlands, floodplains and depressions (green infrastructure) at several priority sites, build community resilience at these sites, and enable the Government of Pakistan, including all lead provinces and stakeholders to implement & replicate such nature-based solutions for climate resilience.

https://twitter.com/sherryrehman/status/1678625444176822275?s=20

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Funding of $77.8 million has been approved for Recharge Pakistan, a project that aims to build the country’s climate resilience and water security, Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman announced on Tuesday.

https://www.brecorder.com/news/40252003/778mn-funding-secured-for-r...

“Good news for Pakistan! Our Recharge Pakistan project, which will be implemented over the next seven years, has been approved today for funding of $77.8mn,” said Rehman in a post on Twitter.

The minister highlighted that the funding includes $66 million from Green Climate Fund (GCF) resources and co-financing of around $11.8 million.

GCF was established in 2010 by 194 countries party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is designed as an operating entity of the Convention’s financial mechanism and is headquartered in South Korea.

“This adaptation project aims to initiate ecosystem-based adaptation interventions that will store flood water in wetlands, floodplains and depressions (green infrastructure) at several priority sites,” said Rehman.

Recharge Pakistan is a joint collaboration by GCF, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Government of Pakistan. As per information available on the WWF website, the project aims to build Pakistan’s climate resilience and water security through cost-effective ecosystem-based adaptation.

“The project will increase water storage and recharge through wetlands, floodplains, and hill-torrents management; promote climate-adapted community-based natural resource management and livelihoods; and forge a paradigm shift to scale up this approach,” read the website.

Last week, Rehman during a high-level meeting with a delegation led by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-designate of COP28 and UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said a “critical gap” in resources for adaptation and mitigation has been identified by multilateral agencies -amounting to $348 billion or 10.7% of cumulative GDP by 2030.

Despite this, Pakistan is committed to a green energy transition, whereby it will transfer 60% of its energy needs to renewables by 2030 and reduce its projected emissions by 50% until 2030, Rehman said.

Pakistan is actively involved in transitioning the country towards the renewable energy sector and is seeking partnerships in the alternative and renewable energy sector, the minister added.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 28, 2023 at 9:42pm

Recharge Pakistan Project receives $77.8 million funding boost from the Green Climate Fund, United States Agency for International Development, The Coca-Cola Foundation and World Wildlife Fund | Press Releases | WWF


https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/recharge-pakistan-proj...

The new 7-year project brings together a broad set of funders to help reduce the vulnerability of people and ecosystems in Pakistan to the impacts of climate change following the devastating floods of the past year—which submerged one-third of the country and displaced millions. In addition to the GCF funding, the project is supported through a further $12 million investment and technical support from, collectively, The Coca-Cola Foundation, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and WWF-Pakistan.

The project represents a deep commitment to addressing climate impacts in vulnerable communities and will transform the country’s approach to flood and water resource management in local watershed sites in the Indus Basin river system. Further, by taking a nature-based approach to the problem, it will create benefits to communities beyond climate resilience.

“Recent years have brought an unprecedented series of climate disasters that touched every corner of the globe. The 2022 floods in Pakistan were among the most searing and severe. Our hearts go out to all who lost friends and loved ones,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF-US. “The funding announced by the GCF alongside the commitments from The Coca-Cola Foundation and USAID marks a decisive step towards addressing the challenges faced by communities experiencing climate impacts first and worst. And while no intervention can fully protect against future climate disasters, the nature-based solutions funded through this investment will help local communities in Pakistan restore what was lost and build resilience to help withstand our shared climate future. WWF thanks the Government of Pakistan and looks forward to working with them and partners to implement this important initiative.”

Recharge Pakistan is a collaboration among: Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC); the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) under the Ministry of Water Resources; local communities in DI Khan, the Ramak Watershed, and Manchar Lake; GCF; USAID; The Coca-Cola Foundation; and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The program encompasses three vital components: demonstrating the effectiveness of ecosystem-based adaptation and green infrastructure, promoting its adoption via an improved enabling environment, and enhancing community resilience in Pakistan's Indus Basin. This will be achieved through:

Restoration and reforestation of 14,215 hectares of forests and wetlands
Rehabilitation 34 km of water flow paths and channels
Development of 127 recharge basins and retention areas
Strengthening the climate resilience of 7 local businesses in the agriculture and forests sectors
Together, project interventions will directly benefit more than 680,000 people and indirectly benefit more than 7 million people.

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